By Graham Clark
Willie Mullins fires a formidable twin assault on the Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas today.
Mr Adjudicator and Saldier crossed paths on a couple of occasions last season, with Mr Adjudicator comfortably coming off best when filling the runner-up spot in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Saldier was a long way back in fifth on that occasion, but turned the tables emphatically in the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown and both horses run for the first time since in this two-mile Grade Three.
Mullins said: “Mr Adjudicator and Saldier run in the Fishery Lane and this is a nice race to start the two of them off in. Both horses seem in good form and hopefully they both run well.”
The biggest threat to the Mullins pair is the Gavin Cromwell-trained Espoir D’Allen. The son of Voix Du Nord was the leading juvenile in Ireland in the first half of last season, winning his first four starts including a Grade Three at Fairyhouse and a Grade Two at Leopardstown.
However, he disappointed in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle won by Mr Adjudicator and was subsequently ruled out of the Triumph Hurdle and ultimately missed the rest of the campaign.
Cromwell said: “We’re delighted to have him back. It looks a good enough race, but it will be good to get him started.
The Charles O’Brien-trained Mastermind, Jessica Harrington’s Conron and Grey Waters from Joseph O’Brien’s yard complete the six-strong field.
Rhinestone makes his jumping debut in the opening Irish Stallion Owners EBF Maiden Hurdle.
Joseph O’Brien’s charge filled the runner-up spot behind the Mullins-trained Blackbow in a Grade Two bumper at Leopardstown in February before finishing ninth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. He will be widely expected to make a successful start over flights this weekend, although Gordon Elliott’s Empire Burleque rates a threat, having blown away the cobwebs at Galway a fortnight ago.
Elliott runs French bumper winner Dallas Des Pictons in the Padraig Fitzgerald Memorial Maiden Hurdle, while the Mongey Communications Beginners Chase throws up a fascinating clash between Ted Walsh’s Any Second Now and Bacardys from the Mullins yard. Any Second Now chased home Footpad on a couple of occasions last season, while dual Grade One-winning hurdler Bacardys gets a second chance over fences after falling on his second start over the larger obstacles last term.
There is a total prize fund of €50,000 up for grabs in the Sky Sports Racing Launching In 2019 Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle.
Paul Nolan has a strong hand with Rooster Byron, Fitzhenry and Chisholm Trail all worthy of consideration.